After House Bill 2 finally became law last year, local officials in many cities and counties across the state over-reacted by passing far-reaching restrictions on where law-abiding citizens – including enhanced and regular carry permit holders – could possess firearms. The language in HB 2 clarified the definition of “concealed” and re-affirmed the right to possess a firearm openly. Following its enactment, the media was full of reports of local elected officials taking drastic steps to ban firearms from nearly all city or county-owned property. Not only were some of these ordinances and actions clearly outside the scope of their authority under state law, they also ended up mostly impacting regular permit holders who had been carrying lawfully and responsibly in these locations since 1991.

In December of 2013, Attorney General Jim Hood (D) issued an opinion affirming that the state firearms preemption statute limits cities’ and counties’ authority to enact and enforce ordinances restricting both open and concealed carry, except under limited circumstances. Attorney General Hood opined that a local government can enact and enforce an ordinance prohibiting concealed carry under a regular permit or open carry only at the following locations:
  • A public park or at a public meeting of the municipality or other municipal governmental body.
  • A political rally, parade or official political meeting.
  • A non-firearm-related school, college or professional athletic event.
The authority of cities and counties over enhanced permit holders is even more limited. Enhanced permit holders may carry in a “meeting place of a governmental entity or to a non-firearm-related school, college or professional athletic event" under the authority of the enhanced permit law. Clearly, cities’ and counties’ ordinance-making powers are very limited under the state firearms preemption law, and yet dozens of illegal ordinances remain on the books that ban ALL firearm possession – open or concealed, licensed or not – from ALL city or county property. In most cases, criminal penalties are established for violations of these illegal ordinances! Some local governments have simply chosen to post all city and county-owned property off-limits to firearms. These signs have created “self-defense-free zones” for persons issued permits by the state to carry for personal protection. While the Attorney General’s opinion affirmed the authority of local governments to post signs on any property under their control to restrict access by regular permit holders, his opinion also pointed out that signage cannot be used by local governments to restrict entry by enhanced permit holders except in; police, sheriff or highway patrol stations, places of nuisance, detention facilities and prisons or jails. Also, posting by local governments cannot be used to ban open carry on public property, except where the firearms preemption law allows (public parks, public meetings of a city, county or other governing body, political rallies, parades, or other official political meetings, or non-firearm-related school, college or professional athletic events.) The flurry of signs that have gone up all over the state on all city and county-owned property can really only legally impact regular permit holders – persons who had been lawfully carrying in most of these locations since 1991. Last week we reported on House Bill 314 filed by state Representative Andy Gipson (R-77), which would clarify limits on the authority of municipalities and counties to restrict the carrying of firearms and also provide a legal remedy for citizens who are adversely impacted by local gun control ordinances enacted outside the scope of this authority. However, powerful associations of local elected officials are aggressively lobbying against HB 314, claiming it strips them of powers they don’t legally have.
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